Student Winner
Justyna Cuglewska

It’s difficult to keep cool at my local bus stop; the same people wait for the 77 with the same bad attitudes. Hands in their pockets, smoking hot breath against the frosty dark morning, counting down until a warm bus rescues them from unnecessary chit-chat. It’s always like that at 5 a.m. on weekdays.


The turquoise 77 arrives. Shoulder to shoulder, packed with other bodies. The driver has lost count of passenger capacity; we all have to eat and pay the bills. I get on, squeezing through, feeling the motion…


We stumble forward. The taste of Lynx at the back of my throat makes my stomach churn. I hear women prattle, until their time is served, and fresh air awaits beyond swinging metal doors. Others kissing their lips, looking at me with dark sleepy eyes, ready to kick off at any sign of confrontation. They wouldn’t mean it – they’re half awake, coffee the only drug to disguise sleep. On this bus they think they are dominating the social hierarchy, able bodies, sitting in the priority seats. Their looks, intimidatingly sharp.

I am not intimidated. Not one bit.

“Can you move over, mate?” I say, louder than Freddie Mercury sings in my ears. This bus gives them temporary comfort, but anywhere else I am on top.

“I was ‘ere first, duck.” His ethanol-stained words spill from the night before.

It’s tough to keep cool on board this mechanical snake.

I decide to let it slide.

Just once.

Find out more about Justyna here.